Alarming study: Climate change can aggravate more than half of infectious diseases

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Climate hazards have, at some point in history, aggravated 58 percent of human infectious diseases, according to a study published in Nature Climate Changewhich confirms that continued climate change entails risks to human health.

“Climate hazards are too numerous for society to adapt comprehensively, which highlights the urgent need to work on the source of the problem: the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions”the authors point out in their article.

It is relatively well accepted that climate change can affect human pathogenic diseases, say researchers led by Camilo Mora, from the University of Hawaii; however, the full extent of this risk remains, they warn, poorly quantified.

Until now, studies have focused mainly on specific groups of pathogens (for example, bacteria or viruses), on the response to certain hazards (heat waves or increased flooding), or on the types of transmission (for example, from food or water origin).

But the full threat to humanity in the context of climate change and disease is unknown.

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To advance in this direction, The researchers reviewed more than 70,000 articles in the scientific literature, revealing 3,213 empirical cases linking unique human pathogenic diseases to ten climate threats, such as warming, flooding, or drought.

Total, the authors found that 58 percent (218 of 375) of the documented infectious diseases facing humanity worldwide have been exacerbated at some point by risks associated with climate change and 16 percent diminished.

Although numerous biological, ecological, environmental and social factors contribute to the successful emergence of a human pathogenic disease, at the most basic level it depends on a pathogen and a person coming into contact and the degree of resistance of individuals being lowered or the pathogen being strengthened by a climatic hazard.

Those risks include those that facilitate the approach between pathogens and people; for instance, warming increases the area in which organisms that transmit diseases, such as Lyme, dengue and malaria, act.

On the other hand, there are those climatic problems that bring people closer to pathogens. For example, storms, floods and rising sea levels cause human displacement implicated in cases of Lassa fever (acute hemorrhagic viral disease) or leginaria disease (severe pulmonary infection).

The study also sees dangers in land use changes facilitated by human encroachment.which has brought people closer to vectors and pathogens, causing, for example, outbreaks of diseases such as Ebola.

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